§ Caroline Flint
I represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in Brussels on 19 July.
The Council held an orientation debate on the new JHA multi-annual work programme. I said that the programme should focus on visible action with the aim of bringing practical improvements to EU citizens. Member States agreed on this and most Member States agreed the programme should focus on action that may be taken forward under the existing treaties. Most Member States agreed that mutual recognition should remain the cornerstone of judicial co-operation and that more effective use should he made of Europol. On Immigration and Asylum there was broad support for the emphasis the Presidency had placed on practical cooperation, implementation and the evaluation of existing measures, but differing views on the need for further harmonisation of legislation. One delegation noted that adequate funding would need to be made available to support the new work programme. The 1907W Presidency intends to prepare a final draft of the new programme for discussion at the September informal JHA Council.
The Commission presented its Communication Towards Enhancing Access to Information by Law Enforcement Agencies' (10745/04) which emphasised the importance of wider access to national databases for law enforcement authorities, a common approach to the analysis of criminal and intelligence matters and the need to promote the idea of intelligence-led policing. The Communication was noted by the Presidency who said they would feed it into the discussion on the new JHA multi-annual work programme.
The EU Counter-terrorism coordinator updated Member States on work currently being undertaken. The Counter-terrorism co-ordinator agreed with member States on the need for strengthened cooperation between law enforcement and emergency services and for a more concerted approach to civil crisis management within the EU. The Counter-terrorism coordinator also indicated work was being taken forward to look at ways for closer constructive engagement with moderate Islamic civil society. The Counter-terrorism co-ordinator also noted the Council would in due course examine how Eurojust may be better able to contribute to counter-terrorism efforts.
Greece updated the Council on its national plan for security at the Olympic games.
In light of growing pressure for the creation of a European register of criminal convictions, the Commission said it was preparing a draft Council Decision for October, which would promote the exchange of information on criminal convictions for serious offences, in particular murder, sexual crimes and terrorism. It was also planning to publish a Framework Decision on the mutual recognition of convictions by December. In approaching this work, the Commission took the view that it was unnecessary to create a single, central European database. Instead they favoured granting national authorities wider access to Member States existing registers. I supported the Commission, stressing that any initiative should include terrorist offences, and noting that attention should also be paid to the supervision of offender's post-conviction.
The Council discussed the position of Europol director and most Member States agreed it would be necessary to begin the process for selecting a new director of Europol again.
On Immigration and Asylum, the Commission presented the Communication on the Establishment of a Single Procedure for the Processing of Applications for Protection in the Member States. The Commission emphasised that introducing unified procedures at a national level for all asylum claims would have benefits in terms of speed and efficiency.
This was followed by a presentation by the Commission on its Communication on Common Readmission Policy (SEC (2004) 946 final). The Commission noted that there had been some improvements in the negotiation of readmission agreements but the overall picture was mixed. The ED needed to fine-tune its approach, for example: lighter negotiating mandates and compensatory measures 1908W where agreements covered third country nationals. The negotiation of readmission agreements with countries covered by the EU's New Neighbourhood Policy should be a priority.
The annual report on Migration and Integration (COM (2004) 508 final) was presented by the Commission. The Commission said that the report underlined the fact that the EU needed further immigration for economic and political reasons. The Commissions view was that while it was appropriate for the rules, particularly on economic migration, to be left to the Member States, there was also a need to move forward at a Community level. The Commission proposed speedy agreement in the Council on common principles on integration and that issues should be mainstreamed within wider policy frameworks.
Finally, I have placed in the Library a copy of the list of "A" points which were approved at the Council (Document PTS A 36 11478/04).